21/03/2012 – Advice funding in Budget 2012 falls short
Press release 21 March 2012 - for immediate release
Advice funding in Budget 2012 falls short
Lasa, a leading charity and strategic provider of knowledge, support and resources to third sector and government bodies, is disappointed with today's Budget announcement of funding for advice services of £20million over the next two years. New research from Justice for All estimates more than £50million per annum will be lost from the not-for-profit advice sector due to legal aid proposals alone, before factoring in other cuts to funding at local authority level.
To give a simple indication of the shortfall, current annual spend on welfare benefits legal aid is in the region of £25million, and the Legal Aid Bill proposes to completely remove this area from the scope of legal aid altogether. Thus, the "new" funding does not even cover one single area of loss, despite wide-ranging welfare reforms that are currently being implemented and the possible problems that will arise from such enormous systemic change.
We have concerns that this funding is simply intended to allow Ministers to overturn a recent Lords amendment that allowed for welfare benefits to be bought back into the scope of legal aid, by saying this funding is sufficient to make up any shortfall. It is not sufficient, in and of itself, let alone when considering other areas of legal aid such as debt, housing, employment, education and immigration which are also removed from, or reduced in, scope
Terry Stokes, Lasa CEO said: "Whilst any additional funding would usually be welcomed, I am very concerned that the £20million announced does little to address the very real and serious shortfalls in funding for independent advice services. In difficult economic times, it is vital to ensure that vulnerable citizens can access appropriate advice to address problems with benefits, housing, debts or employment, to stop problems becoming more complex and more costly to resolve. We hope that we can work with the Cabinet Office moving forwards to look at ways to properly meet the needs of citizens needing advice, including the role of technology."
Information for editors
1) Lasa is a leading charity and strategic provider of knowledge, support and resources to third sector and government bodies. Lasa helps thousands of organisations across the UK each year including Age UK, Shelter and Citizens Advice Bureau. It helps organisations to get better welfare rights advice to their clients; deliver more effective and efficient services; influences policy for advice and legal services; and raises awareness of the third sector's technology needs with funders and government. For more information, please visit www.lasa.org.uk
2) The charity advice sector will be at least £100m a year worse off by 2013/14, reveals the Justice for All campaign in a new report, Advice Needs http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/2832/
3) The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is currently in Report Stage of the House of Lords. On 7 March, peers voted to support an amendment to allow welfare benefit appeals and reviews to be bought back into scope of legal aid.
4) For more information or comment, contact Paul Treloar, Head of Policy and Communication, on 020 7426 4484 email email@example.com, or Tim Watkins-Idle, Senior administrator, on 020 7377 2748 email firstname.lastname@example.org